Women with disability in Australia are recognised as facing significant challenges in accessing justice in relation to violence that they experience. Violence may include physical and sexual violence as well as other forms of abuse such as coercive control, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and physical and social isolation.
In addition, violence may take particular forms such as withholding required medications or aids, limiting access to disability support services or mainstream service providers, and threats related to women’s mothering and care-giving roles.
Key objectives from this report were to:
- Produce knowledge of the experiences of women with disability in terms of violence, especially sexual assault and intimate partner violence, and pathways and barriers to accessing support and justice responses to such violence.
- Produce the research in partnership with an organisation constituted and led by people with disability, (PWDA, on behalf of DPOA, which works with people with disability in regard to violence), in order to ensure the validity, efficacy and potential for meaningful application of the findings of the research project.
In total, 36 women participated in our study, through semi-structured interviews or focus groups. Researchers also interviewed 18 specialist violence and disability stakeholders across the two states. Through these interviews, research found:
- The need to listen to the voices of women with disability and to believe them: In moving towards the removal of barriers to women’s access to justice, attention to women’s own accounts and aspirations is critically important.
- Women with disability face particular and sustained challenges in achieving everyday safety and security.
- Possible pathways to just outcomes: Definitions of violence and access to justice require considerable attention and expansion if we are to effectively address the needs, and embed the human rights of women with disability into service delivery models.
- Service challenges across the specialist violence and disability service sectors: Supporting services to build cross-sectoral and grounded knowledge in workers, embedded in cross sector training packages, would ensure best practice outcomes, and build robust evidence bases for new and emerging knowledges about how best to support women to achieve safety, security and justice.
- Impact of “siloed” knowledges: Women’s access to justice is often contingent on partial knowledge, insights, skills and service delivery models. Despite systematic investigations, reports, and recommendations for change, there appears to be limited progress towards embedding access to justice for women with disability facing violence in meaningful and concrete ways.